If the Class 3A Providence Sectional final between Oak Forest and host Providence had been a boxing match, both teams would have left the field worse for wear.
The teams traded punches for seven innings, but it was the tiniest of jabs that delivered the knockout blow. An out away from extra innings, Providence’s Sarah Brightmore knocked in Jessica Jatis on a tapper that spun away from the right side of the Bengals infield, giving Providence a 5-4 victory and the sectional crown.
Providence will meet Geneseo at 4:30 p.m. Monday in the Seneca Supersectional.
“I was really nervous (coming to bat), but I knew I had to do it for my team because we’ve worked so hard all season,” Brightmore said. “I am overjoyed with excitement right now.
“I had a feeling the ball was going to fall, but I thought I’d be thrown out at first. I’m happy the spin was on (the ball).”
Providence (27-12) held a 4-2 lead going into the seventh, but a resilient Oak Forest squad put two on the board on a double by Callie Delisi. Jourdan Skirha (3-for-4, RBI, two runs) started the inning with a hit and Priscilla Rios reached on an error before Delisi delivered.
“We felt like we gave the game away in the top of the seventh,” Providence coach Jay Biesterfeld said. “We just tried to hang in there and keep the tie, and then we got a couple of big hits in the last inning to find a way to get it done.”
Oak Forest starter Emily Larsen (nine strikeouts, two earned runs) allowed multiple base runners in six of seven frames but limited the Celtics to one big inning. Providence scored four runs in the second, three of which were unearned after two errors by Oak Forest (26-13).
Amanda Wilson did the most damage in the frame, hitting a two-run single before Larsen struck out the final two batters of the inning.
Wilson earned the win in relief, going 2 1/3 innings and striking out four.
“We got ourselves in a deficit, but we didn’t go down without a fight,” Oak Forest coach Katy Dammer said. “I’ve never been so proud to coach a group of girls like this.”